While I’ve never been one to promote food and its disease fighting benefits on this blog [what kind of registered dietitian am I?! imperfect, that’s for sure], there’s a reason I push YOU and my family to try adding one or more fruit or vegetables to your plate each day. Food and nutrition play a HUGE role one’s health and well-being. In fact, I spent 6 years studying, researching and developing ways to prevent disease in our communities through nutrition- yes guys, that was well before I was talking about toddler food throwing and tips for handling those picky eaters.
While I’m not here today to say, “eat this and not that, and you won’t get the COVID-19,” [read more about extra precautions from the CDC here], I am telling you there are a few steps you can take in your kitchen and when shopping at the grocery store to educate yourself on the basics of nutrition and disease prevention. So, whether you go to Costco, Kroger, Meijer, or a favorite local grocery store, consider picking up a few of these foods- if there are any left of the shelves!
- All pictures of food are from previous meal prep or produce prep sessions.
- If you’re doing a large grocery haul soon, you might like this post on stocking your fridge, freezer, and pantry.
- I previously wrote a post on immune-boosting foods a few cold and flu seasons ago. Same rules apply!
Leafy Greens: Spinach, kale, arugula, romaine, mustard greens, swiss chard, cabbage; there are many leafy greens that provide a variety of vitamins and minerals that will help reduce your risk of developing disease. Choose ones that are vibrant, leafy, and green and mix a combination of greens. Don’t be afraid to freeze a few extra greens to throw into recipes at a later time [thinking soup or smoothie with that suggestion- not a salad].
Bell Peppers: These brightly colored vegetables are full of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Select peppers that are deeply colored and firm with just a little give while avoiding ones that have wrinkles and store them at room temperature. Peppers are delicious eaten raw and can be thrown in salads, salsas, sandwiches and wraps or they can be grilled, roasted, or sautéed. My kids like to dip peppers in ketchup. Don’t. Ask. But hey, at least we are eating 2-3 a day!
Onions: Onions may or may not cause you to shed some tears when chopping but fear not as it is worth it in the end! Onions are packed with antioxidants, [such as vitamin C], that support the immune system by decreasing inflammation and fighting off free radicals that harm immune function. Since children have immune systems that are still developing, eating foods like onions that boost immunity are especially important. Slice, dice, and hide [yep, I said it] into meals so those little eyes don’t spot them!
Pineapple: This tropical fruit is full of vitamins and minerals, including high amounts of manganese and Vitamin C, that can help boost your immune system and build strong bones. Canned, fresh, or frozen, you can usually always find this fruit at the grocery store. If you’re lucky enough to grab a fresh pineapple, choose one that has green leaves and gives off that distinctive pineapple smell when you sniff its bottom side.
Berries [strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries]: These very popular fruits, fresh or frozen, are filled with high levels of antioxidants, especially Vitamin C. The added bonus of keeping berries on hand? Not only do they boost your immune system, they have little amounts of natural sugars so they make the perfect snack or sweet treat for big and little kids.
Chicken: Your mom was not lying when she insisted that chicken soup would help with your cold. The minerals, [such as potassium, magnesium, and iron], and protein found in chicken work well together to boost your immune system. Here’s a simple way to shred chicken in your slow cooker and use it later for multiple meals.
Oats: You may be more familiar with the heart-health benefits whole grain foods like oats have. But this great whole grain helps to keep your immune system in check as well. Oats contain a special fiber called beta-glucan, which has been shown to help lower cholesterol and strengthen one’s immune system. Bonus? Filling up on oatmeal can also help keep your weight in check by helping you feel fuller longer.
There are many more foods that could make this list, and the reality is the key to disease prevention and promotion is NOT just eating one food but combining a lifestyle of physical activity along with healthy eating. You can’t go wrong with eating a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins each day can protect your body, along with following these other disease-fighting practices from the CDC.
You also can’t go wrong by just living-in and eating-for today. What’s one small change you can make today to eat “better” and improve your overall health?